How Plants Work

The basics of botany

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Does Mary give you an answer to this question? No, but we will!

Let's start with the parts of the plant: leaves, flowers, stems, and roots. Leaves are the plant's kitchen; food-making goes on in the leaves, during the on-going process of photosynthesis (where the energy from the sun is transformed into energy the plant can use).

Flowers are the plant's reproductive organs, helping the plant generate baby plants (as well as the useful grains, seeds, and fruits that all humans need!).

Stems are the support structures of the plant. Stems hold up the plant, but also conduct food and water throughout it.

Roots are an integral part of the plant's body, too. Roots hold the plant in the ground as well as provide a food storage area and nutrient absorption for the plant.

Now let's add a little environment: Plants use the sun for energy during photosynthesis. They use special cells filled with a green pigment called chlorophyll to convert carbon dioxide and water into a sugar called glucose, and they use the glucose - a form of carbohydrate - for energy.

Different plants need different environmental conditions. Some plants need a lot of water, while other plants need more sun.

Learn what types of soil and nutrients your plant needs, how much water it needs (and whether to leave the soil moist or let it dry out between waterings), and the type of sunlight it needs - full, partial, or shade. Other environmental factors to consider are the range of temperatures (can't be too hot or too cold!), and the amount of wind a plant will receive.